There is a growing importance for ministries, whether a local church or a Christ-centered non-profit, to develop position papers on key theological questions and cultural issues. The reality is that many doctrinal statements do not address some of the cultural issues facing ministry leaders today. Without articulated positions, it is challenging to offer clarity with compassion and consistency. Position papers can be utilized to ensure the team knows what the ministry believes and how to train leaders to serve people who have questions or struggles. Benefits of developing position papers for a ministry include an increase in clarity, confidence, compassion, and consistency for the team.
At the same time, the position papers contain some inabilities, and wise ministry leaders will understand these inabilities so as not to over-rely on the position papers.
1. Position papers are positions to pastor from. They are not pastoring.
It would be a pastoring blunder to assume that developing position papers means the way to meet people who have questions with grace and truth just got easier—that all it takes now is to send an email. The position paper equips people to be prepared for pastoring, but the position paper must not be equated with pastoring. When someone has a struggle, they typically don’t need a paper—they need a person. They don’t desire a commentary—they want someone to walk through what Jesus teaches His people with them.
2. Position papers are source documents for sermons. They are not sermons.
When teaching a message, it is wise for the teacher to read books and study commentaries. The preparation informs the teacher’s message, but the teacher does not equate the source documents with the sermon. The same is true for position papers. They are not sermons, but source documents that help guide the thinking beneath the sermon and the truth that should be within the sermon. It would be a mistake to equate the two, because instead of lovingly declaring God’s truth and applying God’s truth to people’s lives, the teacher would simply be reading points. This is not very effective and often functions only to make a point, not pastor people.
Position papers are increasingly important in a ministry context, but their inabilities must be recognized. It takes people to pastor people. Papers can help, but they are not pastoring.